Arizona Board of Regents celebrates President Crow's first 20 years at ASU

Event fetes president with accolades, testimonials and a new title

ASU President Michael Crow smiles as he sits at a banquet table surrounded by others

A special celebration Thursday night honored the 20th anniversary of Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow’s leadership with touching moments, humor — and a new title.

The Arizona Board of Regents recognized Crow’s contributions and service to the university, honoring him with the distinction of Regents Distinguished President.

The distinction, conferred for the first time, was presented along with a unique medallion that can be worn as part of his official university regalia. 

Lyndel Manson, chair of the Board of Regents, said the medallion made of turquoise, silver and petrified wood represents the legacy, prosperity and transformation of Arizona, as well as Crow’s commitment and leadership in the continued success of the university and the state.

“These materials are symbolic of your leadership,” she said. “Turquoise brings good fortune and represents the good you have brought to the university. Silver symbolizes your success and impact on the university. Silver has a long history in Arizona as a catalyst for exploration, growth and prosperity. Petrified wood is a stone of transformation and represents the transformative impact you have had on the university and its students.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU News

Crow became the 16th president of ASU in 2002 and dedicated the last two decades to advancing its redesign as the New American University. ASU has achieved historic levels of inclusion, research, advancement and student success.

Thursday night, a clearly touched Crow reflected on the 20-year journey.

“This has been the most fantastic job, the most fantastic place that I could have possibly imagined,” Crow said. “... I am deeply humbled to be here, deeply honored to be able to hold this position, thankful to the Regents, and thankful to those of you who have been part of helping to make this work.”

The evening, hosted by the Board of Regents in ASU’s Carson Ballroom in Old Main, brought together Crow’s family, friends, mentors and colleagues past and present to reflect on the last 20 years.

In video remarks, two of Crow’s close colleagues and mentors paid tribute to his extraordinary career. Jonathan Cole, provost and dean of faculties, emeritus at Columbia University, recounted his decades-long relationship with him — first with Crow as his student, then as his colleague and today, as his mentor. Sir Malcolm Grant, chair of the National Health Service of England, delivered insightful, powerful and entertaining remarks about Crow’s leadership of the ASU “ecosystem.” 

Another video energetically recapped many of the accomplishments achieved during the last two decades. Alberto Ríos, Arizona's inaugural poet laureate, penned a special poem for the occasion.

The University of Arizona gave Crow a basket of assorted gifts and a framed photo of a certain billboard down in Tucson — one that commemorated ASU’s 70-7 football victory in 2020. On behalf of Northern Arizona University, President José Luis Cruz Rivera shared “tastes” of Flagstaff to recognize Crow’s favorite food and coffee locations in the high country — and a rare first edition of the seminal 1910 book “The Idea of a University” by John Henry Newman.

Video by VisComm/MRSC

The evening forced Crow, seemingly always in forward motion, to stop and look back.

“When I heard there was going to be an event related to my job anniversary, I think my heart went into my stomach. It’s kind of against my nature,” Crow said. Indeed, he shared a text from his wife, Sybil Francis, from earlier in the day that reminded him, “I know it’s hard for you to take praise and appreciation.”

“It is,” Crow continued. “So I just want to say thank you to everyone, and thank you to the Regents. It really is more than an honor to be here and to be in this job, this role. ...

“Thank you for the recognition, thank you for this medallion, thank you for allowing me to be here in Arizona.”  

And while focused on the past, the evening had an inspiring tone: There’s more still to come.

Top photo: President Michael Crow smiles during Thursday's celebratory dinner at Old Main. Photo by Caroline Huey 

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